He who dies with the most toys wins. At least that is what a classic bumper sticker suggests. However, as we read through a few passages of Scripture, we learn that people who live for the most toys are miserable. Their life is painful, pointless, and panicked. How can you inoculate your heart from these terrible side effects? Desire one thing that can never be taken away from you!
Paul doesn’t speak highly of those who suppose gain is godliness. From Paul’s perspective, these teachers are willing to pluck up and destroy just about anything if it brings them some comfort. “Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Their problems will be solved when they desire the right things. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
The teacher in Ecclesiastes saw the vanity of all the travail. “There is one alone” yet he works harder and toils more without ever considering, “For whom do I labour” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). This person is caught up in the pursuit of pleasure, but “neither is his eye satisfied.” In the froth of slaving for more, he hasn’t noticed the fact that there is no one to share it with! His soul has been bereaved of good. By pursuing the wrong thing, he has missed what is most valuable.
If anyone should have been disturbed by their situation, it is the psalmist. False witnesses were rising up against him. He was under attack so much so he would have fainted. Except he “believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). The psalmist was confident and courageous. Fear disappears when our desire correctly centers on the “one thing.”
So far, you may think, “This doesn’t sound too hard. I just need to pursue good things as opposed to worldly things.”
This brings us to the most sobering of passages to consider. The priest was supposed to represent the ideal for all of humanity. They were privileged to enjoy the presence of God and engage in His service. They were as close to the right desire as any other human being could be. As you read through Leviticus 21, it may strike you as a harsh restriction for the priest not to mourn for the dearly departed.
Probably the greatest application of this chapter comes a few chapters earlier in Leviticus. There was a fabulous worship service outside the tabernacle. Nadab and Abihu desired to “improve” the service with some of their own creativity. God discerned their personal preference and the fire of the Lord “devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:2). Moses tells Aaron to hold his peace and not even make one whimper of mourning. Aaron represented the noble and singular desire of the “one thing,” but if he mourned for his sons at this moment, he would have honored them above God. This had to be one of the most challenging moments in Aaron’s life, but to honor his sons in their disobedience above God would profane the name of God (Leviticus 21:6).
It’s challenging to have our desire calibrated correctly. But when our desire is misguided we “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts” (1 Timothy 6:9). Can you say with the psalmist, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4)?